Provincial military police in Kompong Speu province on Tuesday summoned a low-ranking soldier to military headquarters to answer questions in connection with Saturday’s shooting death of a Sam Rainsy Party deputy commune chief, an official said on Tuesday.
Acting on a court summons issued Tuesday by the Kompong Speu Provincial Court prosecutor, the military police have taken the soldier—identified as Sao Sok—into custody, said Sorn Sokha, the bureau chief of the penal military police.
“We are still questioning him. It’s not finished,” Sorn Sokha said. “If we cannot find him guilty of murder, he still will be [charged] for possessing illegally a gun.”
Military police are currently looking for three other individuals suspected in the killing.
The court summons also ordered Sao Sok to surrender his AK-47 assault rifle, which provincial authorities sent to the Ministry of Interior for a ballistics test, a Licadho monitoring coordinator said. The authorities also sent the AK-47 owned by the victim, Tit Keo Monyroath, to the Ministry of Interior, the Licadho official said. Sorn Sokha confirmed that the military police confiscated Sao Sok’s weapon.
One Ministry of Interior official on Tuesday could not confirm that the two assault rifles had been received by the Ministry of Interior.
Sao Sok, 40, is not yet officially a suspect in the Saturday shooting of Tit Keo Monyroath in Sambo commune, Samraong Tong district, but the question “could lead to the arrest” and formal charging of Sao Sok in the killing, the Licadho monitoring coordinator said.
Tit Keo Monyroath was shot to death as he drove with his nephew from his house in Sambo commune to a wedding. He was apparently shot by two assailants who were waiting in hiding for him, according to police and his nephew Him Vuthea, who was the only witness to the killing.
The killers did not take any possessions from Tit Keo Monyroath.
Provincial military police are currently questioning the soldier because Sao Sok allegedly called Tit Keo Monyroath to a wedding celebration at his house, sparking fears that Sao Sok was involved in the coordinated killing, the human rights officials said.
Sao Sok, a soldier in Samraong Tong, allegedly knew the victim “for a long time” and was a good friend of Tit Keo Monyroath, the Licadho official said. No motive has yet been discovered for the killing.
Opposition party leader Sam Rainsy said the killing was definitely political because it fit a pattern of past execution-style killings.
“Tit Keo Monyroath was an active and popular member of the Sam Rainsy Party—the killers identify our best elements and kill them,” he said.
Khieu Kanharith, secretary of state for the Ministry of Information, said it was still too early assign a motive to the killing.